The Broncos hung tough with the Big 10’s Fighting Illini...even leading at the half, but a brutal 10 minute stretch in the second half destroyed any hope of moving forward in the NIT and Boise State fell 71-56 in Champaign. The young Bronco team, picked to finish 5th in the MWC, got to 20 wins for the 5th straight season under head coach Leon Rice, and gave a historically great Illinois squad all they could handle (until they didn’t). The Broncos were again paced by junior Chandler Hutchison, who put in 17 points...but sorely missed the depth that David Wacker and James Reid provided as they both sat out with injuries.
The first half ended with an individual 9-0 run by Boise State’s Nick Duncan and the Broncos headed into halftime with a 34-33 lead. The Broncos extended their lead early in the second half before Illinois woke up and started getting hot from 3-point range. The see-saw battle commenced until about the 10 minute mark of the second stanza, when suddenly the Broncos couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn from virtually any distance (but especially three-point range) and Illinois slowly but surely increased their lead until desperation time for the Broncos netted more of the same.
The Bronco offseason has now begun for both hoops teams, but both men’s and women’s squads achieved a lot with relatively young squads (especially your MWC champion women’s team). Boise State has a lot to learn but a lot to build on for the future and personally, I’m awfully proud of the resilience of this team. It’s a shame to have the season end this way, but the men made it much farther than many believed they could, and players like Justinian Jessup, Marcus Dickinson, and Alex Hobbs showed that the future is rather bright.